NEW YORK, NY – We are less than a week away from the start of the NHL season. It is great to have hockey back, but things will be very different this season. Due to the pandemic and last season’s Stanley Cup Playoff extending into the fall, this season will be 56 games and run from January until May.
To limit travel during the ongoing pandemic, the teams have been separated into four divisions and teams will only play other teams within their division. And because of travel restrictions, the Canadian teams will comprise their own division.
The East division looks a lot like the Metropolitan Division, with the addition of the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres and subtraction of the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets who move to the Central Division. Teams will play the other teams in the division eight times. Familiarity breeds contempt and there will be plenty of contempt for the Rangers’ Metropolitan division rivals. It’s never been difficult for the hatred between the Rangers and Islanders to boil over and this year there will be extra chances to stoke those flames of hatred.
There will also be a chance for the Rangers to forge a rivalry with the Boston Bruins. The two teams haven’t been in a division together since the early days of NHL expansion in the 1970s. The Rangers and Bruins playing regularly will be fun to watch.
There will be some other changes that may take some getting used to. For the first time advertisements will be permitted on players’ helmets. We’re still a ways away from having European-style advertisements on every spare stitch of sweater, but it will still be an unsettling development for NHL purists.
The league also sold the naming rights to the divisions. So we’ll have the ScotiaBank North Division, the Mass Mutual East Division, the Discover Central Division, and the Honda West Division. The league is doing this and the helmet advertisements to try to offset the losses in revenue from the shortened season and not having fans in the arenas.
The league has said that the sponsorships will just be for this season, but I’m sure there will be more in the years to come. I just hope we don’t get to the point where the jerseys are covered in sponsors and the face-off circles are just billboards like in the SHL and KHL. It will be good to have hockey back even if it has a new look.
When the ice melts, we turn to the diamonds….
The Mets have a new look since being sold to Steve Cohen. The new owner went to work immediately splashing the cash. Their latest achievement was to bring Francisco Lindor to Queens. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and crown the Mets 2021 champions just yet. They’ve still got a long way to go but they are moving in the right direction.